It was déjà vu for Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday as West Alabama junior Fernando Gonzalez shut out the Golden Lions for eight innings and the Division II Tigers took Game 2 of the three-game series with a 3-0 win at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex.
Despite the return of head coach Carlos James, the Lions (7-15) managed just two hits and left six runners stranded. They also committed three errors.
“Gonzalez did a great job today,” James said. “That’s what you get in D-II, you get some really good pitchers.
“That’s one reason why we brought (West Alabama) in, because it was going to give us a weekend where we don’t have a drop off in competition.”
Gonzalez also struck out five and walked two for his sixth win of the season.
“Their team is better than any team in our conference,” James said. “It was good to see that type of pitching today.”
After West Alabama (18-9) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, UAPB had a couple of chances to tie the game in the middle innings.
Back up catcher Eddie Martinez was hit-by-a-pitch to lead off the bottom of the third. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mitch Bruckshaw and went to third on a groundout.
Martinez was left stranded after senior Tyler Oertle grounded out to the shortstop.
Jason Ibrahim led off the fifth inning with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Haas and to third on a ground out by Martinez. UAPB couldn’t get the key hit to bring him in though, keeping it a 1-0 game.
UAPB started five bench players in Saturday’s game in hopes of trying to create a little depth for the Lions to use later in the season.
“We started a bunch of reserves and they did a great job,” James said. “We accomplished what I wanted to accomplish today.”
James said it is important for the back-up players to get more experience.
“So that down the stretch, when we got some nicks and injuries here and there, we got guys that are confident to go in on the weekends,” James said. “… The picture is bigger than what people may see with the score.”
UAPB senior Mikey Ramirez is tagged with the loss. He pitched eight innings, allowing one run (earned) on nine hits with four strikeouts.
“He did a great job for us,” James said. “That is encouraging for us to see.
“We could have left him in there, but we have Texas Southern next weekend and what’s important is winning conference.”
West Alabama got on the board in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. With one out, Tyler Richburg singled and Tanner Rainey doubled down the third base line to put runners on second and third.
Jack Cockrum – who finished the game 2 for 4 with three RBIs – hit a sacrifice fly to center field, allowing Richburg to score from third.
Ramirez got out of the early jam by getting the next batter to fly out to right field. The Tigers left 10 runners stranded but tallied 12 hits in the game.
“Mikey did a great job of coming out and giving us a chance to win,” James said.
West Alabama picked up a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth.
With one out, Jocobby Robinson reached on an infield single and Mitch Holgate followed with a single to put runners on first and second. After strikeout issued by UAPB relief pitcher Redmond Floyd, Rainey walked to load the bases.
James brought in Sam Olson to try to get out of the jam. But Cockrum – on a full count – hit a two-run single up the middle to give the Tigers the 3-0 lead.
Floyd pitched two-thirds of an inning and allowed two runs (both earned) on two hits with a walk and a strikeout.
Rainey closed out the bottom of the ninth for West Alabama. He struck out two of the four batters he face, allowing just the walk to Isias Alcantar.
Rainey also finished 2 for 4 with a double.
Junior Joshua Cassidy and Ibrahim were the only two Lions to get a hit.
UAPB will try to prevent the sweep as the series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m.